Spotlight – The American Bully Val Cairney
Hi everyone, and thank you for joining me on this spotlight episode of Val Talk’s Pets. The other day I realized how often someone tells me they have an American Bully. I wondered, what exactly is that? Is it an American Bulldog and this is the shortened nickname? Or is it something else? Well let’s take a look at the American Bully and see what we can learn.
We might as well start with the definition of the American Bully. According to Wikipedia, “the American Bully is a modern breed of dog that was developed as a companion dog.” There is a kennel club for American Bullys called the American Bully Kennel Club. The club has made standards clear for the breed since 2004. However, “neither The Kennel Club nor American Kennel Club have recognized or accepted the American Bully into their registry as a purebred dog.” Historically, the “American Bully began development in the 1980’s.” “There is consensus that at least five other breeds were used to attain the more “bully” physical traits desired as well as the more diminutive size of some lines.” “The American Pit Bull Terrier was the foundation breed. There was “openly acknowledged breeding to the American Bulldog, English Bulldog, and Olde English bulldogge.”
So, what was the thought process behind creating this breed of dog? “According to the ABKC, American Bully Kennel Club, the initial desire for this breed was to produce a dog with a lower prey drive and more of the “bully” traits and characteristics than the American Staffordshire Terrier. Mass and heavy bone was prioritized to ensure such a look and due to this many of the dogs shown today display the wide front for which they were originally bred.”
Typically an American Bully is medium sized with a compact bulky muscular body. In the standard size a male must be 17 to 20 inches at the withers, females under 16 inches. There are additional sizes with the Pocket, X large, and Classic. “The classic is a lighter-framed dog than the standard. These dogs do not display the exaggerated feature often found in the other varieties and arguably display clearer American Pit Bull Terrier/American Staffordshire Terrier lineage.” Personally, as you know, I don’t like tampering with a breed’s size creating extra-large or pocket. It’s really important to consider what the dog’s actual natural size is, knowing that squishing a brain into a smaller sized skull can lead to issues. The American Bully is a strong dog, no doubt, so I personally would be more comfortable with the original size that was initially created.
I think that brings me to probably the most asked question about American Bullys, and that is temperament.
All of the American Bully information makes it clear that these dogs were bred to have a friendly and playful disposition. They are quite adaptive to training and work well as a family pet. When you see an American Bully, their physical appearance can be a bit daunting. I think that is a fair statement. The breed is often mistook as a Pit Bull and for this reason, they are thought of as aggressive. According to animalso.com, American Bullys are NOT Pit Bulls. If you look at a Pit Bull and an American Bully side by side, the difference does become clear. Bullys have a much larger head than a Pit. Their legs are short compared to a Pit. They have very well defined large muscles and are generally much wider than a Pit, with broad chests and legs further apart. Because the American Bully does have that name, according to animalso.com, they are considered as dangerous.” But, owners overall say this is such a misconception as they have found their American Bullys to be lovable goofballs, that do very well with children and being a part of the family. But just to make sure we have full disclosure here, according to Wikipedia, “Breeders have acknowledged that American Bully dogs can be dangerous if improperly raised or bred. On July 16th 2022, Joanne Robinson of Rotherham, England, was killed in her home when she was attacked by her pet American Bully XL. The dog one of a pair, was reputed to weigh 196 lbs. Furthermore, on August 10th of the same year, another attack by the breed against a person was reported. Ian Symes, an experienced and professional dog-walker, was mauled to death while walking through a park in Fareham, Hampshire. In 2022, six fatal dog attacks in the UK listed American Bully as the breed responsible for the attacks, with victims ranging in ages from 17 months to 62 years.” Just recently in the U.K, on March 23 2023, two Police horses were attacked and described as being “savaged” in a five minute park attack. And in many of the cases of American Bully dog attacks, several were committed by the XL size.
So, where does this leave us? Let’s look a bit deeper into the temperament from dogbreedinfo.com. Here the dog is described as “good-natured, amusing, extremely loyal and affectionate.” “It is an extremely courageous and intelligent guard dog that is very full of life.” “All around, the American Bully is a well-rounded, reliable, trustworthy and ideal family companion.” “They are known for their courage. A persistent fighter if provoked. Highly protective of his owners and the owner’s property, it will fight an enemy to the death if the enemy traps the dog in a corner and threatens its loved ones. This breed has a very high tolerance for pain. Socialize very thoroughly when young to curb any dog aggressive tendencies.” And this I think is a very important take away from this article, “The American Bully needs an owner who is firm, but calm, confident and consistent. They need to know what is expected of them, rules to follow and limits to what they are and are not allowed to do. The objective in training and successfully keeping this dog is to achieve pack leader status.” Well, that really spells things out.
This overall information can be quite concerning. For me, this sounds very similar to the research I did when I wanted a Rottweiler. Rottweilers can be amazing family pets, strong and loyal, well suited for guarding. The research I did and the discussions I had with reputable Rottie breeder’s was to make sure the puppy was very well socialized because a Rottie will often act aggressively to anything it doesn’t understand or has never been subjected to before. A firm, calm hand was recommended. Once the dog knew who was pack leader everything falls into place. And it did! I also enrolled in the beginner level of Schutzhund training as my dog’s parents, both Mum and Dad were Schutzhund champions particularly in Germany where the mother lived. This allowed me to learn a whole new type of training and understand the concept of creating a thinking dog, something that Rottie’s excel at. To me, the approach to an American Bully is the same. This is a strong dog, muscular, courageous, has the ability to guard and fight if needed. But, it is also loving, full of life, great with children, enjoys being part of a family and overall a happy, fun dog. The approach would be to follow the same protocol. Socialize, be firm and calm, be the pack leader, provide daily exercise and play. I think if this protocol is followed, the result is what most American Bully owners say, they have a great family pet.
Let’s look at their care. An American Bully is quite easy to care for in terms of their coat. They have short hair, so a brush every week or so and a bath once in a while is fine. Do keep in mind that they do have short hair, so if you live in an area where winter sets in, I would invest in a nice cozy sweater for fall, and a good winter coat when the snow flies. Bullys require plenty of regular exercise so expect to be outside in all conditions and have your doggy wardrobe ready. In terms of health issues, it varies. Some dogs have issues and some have none. Hip and elbow issues should be looked at and eye issues as well. Plus, Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome can be seen in the shorter muzzled dogs.
One thing to really look out for and this comes down to finding a very reputable breeder is that according to dogbreedinfo.com, “some breeders give their dogs steroids to produce a large muscular body. When the drugs are stopped the dog’s body shrinks back down to normal size, but leaves the dog with many health issues including organ and joint problems. Sometimes these drugs get passed from mother to puppy. If you are in the market to adopt a Bully be sure to find a drug-free breeder.”
In terms of breeding, just like what I experienced when looking for a Rottie, breeding is one of the most important elements along with training. I knew that a Rottweiler could be a very dangerous animal if poorly bred and trained. For that reason, I ventured to CKC dog shows to talk to the top breeders and learn who they were. It was important to see both parents, know their bloodlines and have certifications for eyes and hips. An American Bully is not the type of dog that should ever be purchased from questionable people or from surroundings that look dodgy. Bullys are expensive. Ranging in Canada anywhere from $3000.00 to $5000.00. If someone is selling Bully puppies from a farm where the pups live in an old horse trailer at some low price, run, run away as fast as you can. There is no such thing as a bargain with this breed. If you want this dog, pay the price the reputable breeder is asking. And in exchange you will know there has not been drug use with the dogs, appropriate health certificates are given and you have seen both parents and know the history of the breeding. This will save you a world of hurt, pun intended knowing you have a well-bred dog. The rest is then up to you, to train and socialize the dog properly.
Bottom line with the American Bully is to ask yourself why you want this dog. The American Bully has a tough guy, formidable appearance. Is this the attraction? If so, re-thinking this choice may be in order. This breed is not meant to be aggressive. It was bred specifically not to be aggressive. For this reason, I personally am totally against cropping of the ears. Thankfully, this surgery in many areas has been banned as it is considered mutilation. It has been said that the ear cropping is not to look tough but to avoid health issues. I’m sorry but that’s ridiculous. What about a spaniel that has floppy ears. Their ears are more susceptible to infection and they are not cropped. I think if this dog is being purchased for the reason that it is loyal, can guard and be a lovable family member, then its ears do not need to be cropped. Ear cropping in this kind of breed is used for dogs that are fought in a ring or as bait dogs. So, why would you want your dog to look like that? The argument that it is safer when the dog is working as a guard dog is also ridiculous if this is to be your family pet.
The American Bully can be a great family dog, but I would say it is not for the novice dog owner. You should also check all your local by-laws as well with regards to American Bullys as it is possible they may fall into the ban list of dogs. It is imperative that you get a well-bred Bully. There should be no compromises here. Training is the next super important part of having a well-mannered Bully. These dogs can be too much dog for some people, so having a look at some of the American Bully rescues could net you a wonderful dog that was just not what someone expected when they purchased it. And how did that happen? Well it happened because someone did not do their research. This is a breed that requires full knowledge of what to expect and what is required. If all the pieces come together, you could have a fun, goofball member of the family who will give you their all to make you happy and protect you. But, you’ve got to do your research, because most definitely in this case, knowing is caring.
Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.
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